All designer’s have their tried and true paint palette. And why not? They’ve been specifying color for years. They know what works and what doesn’t, so why not benefit from a designer’s experience? Since I’m a designer who has had years of experience selecting paint colors, I thought you might appreciate a list of the colors Matt and I have used over the years that were very successful.
Instead of selecting colors from the palette that I think are trendy colors, I try to select colors that are either classics, like a red or a navy, or that are versatile and can work with all sorts of colors and styles. It’s easiest to follow the rainbow and just lay out for you the best colors in each color family. This way, when you are considering painting your walls a blue tone, you can check out this list and feel comfortable selecting from our tried and true hues.
Let’s begin in the red family. Reds that I might consider classics would be pink and rich red. You might even find a taupe tone in the red family that would work well as a sophisticated neutral that would be warmer than a gray but not as warm as a beige.
My pink selection is an adult pink, so it has some rose tones in it and it is a bit softened with a neutral. It is Lotus Flower by Sherwin Williams. Look for number SW 6310.
However, if you just want a wisp of pink you might like Benjamin Moore’s Pink Cloud 887. These pinks can be beautiful in a bathroom, an office, bedroom, even a chic living or dining room.
My rich red choice is Caliente by Benjamin Moore. The color number is AF-290, and it is rich yet not overpowering. Most reds require 3 and 4 coats for the true color to come through, but this red has enough neutral tone to it that it covered in only two coats.
My taupe would be Accessible Beige, SW 7036 by Sherwin Williams. It still uses the “beige” moniker but it has enough gray in it to be considered a taupe.
For a dramatic dark taupe use Sherwin-Williams number SW 7033 Brainstorm Bronze. This is a deep color, but paired with an off white trim – it’s gorgeous! Just check the color strip first. You won’t believe what this looks like on a tiny strip compared to how it looks in the room!
The next color family would be the oranges on the color wheel or in a rainbow. The orange family is more popular than you might think because so many beiges and browns come from the orange group. This where colors like bittersweet and paprika would reside. In this color range, I haven’t used too many pastel hues, unless you consider the creams and off whites.
My favorite white is a warm white by Benjamin Moore called Mascarpone, number AF-20. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a white-white. It is a warm white that seems like vanilla ice cream.
For a light, sophisticated beige I use Sherwin Williams’ Kilim Beige, SW 6106. This is the perfect neutral with a tiny touch of gray, giving it that stylish flair. I have used this beige more times than I can count and everyone loves it.
A richer, deeper beige, but not quite a brown is Benjamin Moore’s Alexandria Beige, number HC-77.
One of the best browns I’ve found is Sherwin Williams’ Well-Bred Brown number SW 7027. This is a dark brown so be careful with it and be sure you can handle a dark room. I have used this on numerous occasions as an accent wall.
I love this maple toned orange called Eastlake Gold, SW 0009 from Sherwin Williams. It is fabulous with fall tones and can be a nice accent wall mixed with neutrals.
The yellow family is one of my least favorite color families. I think it is because when mixing a yellow paint, it takes very little colorant to change yellow since it is so light, and often those changes turn yellow green or dirty and I’m not all that interested in greenish, dirty yellow walls!
I might use this soft yellow in my home because it is a creamy, red based yellow so it doesn’t give off any green tones. It is called Napery, SW 6386 by Sherwin Williams.
I’ve seen Cupola Yellow from Sherwin Williams, SW 7692, used for kitchen cabinets and I just love the welcoming feeling it emotes. This photo is from bhg.com, and you can’t say a negative thing about it – it’s beautiful.
Green is the color of life at so many stages from spring greens to summer brights, muted fall greens and even cool winter greens. There are so many directions to go in the green family, but I’ll give you some of the colors I’ve used and been very happy with the results.
Here’s a versatile sage green called Svelte Sage. It is Sherwin William’s color number SW 6164. In my most favorite home in Ohio, I had a sage green on all of the walls in the public areas and I loved how calming and sophisticated it was.
Another nice green is a subtle spring green from Sherwin Williams’ Interior Preservation Palette called Acanthus, SW 0029. I used this in a bedroom above off white wainscoting and it was soft and dreamy.
A good classic dark green is also a Sherwin Williams green called Secret Garden. Its number is 6181. This works great with warm beiges and creams like Kilim Beige and Napery, and you can see how nicely it blends with gold tones as well. I found this pretty photo at www.atlantahomesmag.com.
The blue family is almost always cool feeling, though I have a soft blue in my home that seems very comfortable and is well liked by everyone. Spa blue or green, depending on how you look at it is an important color tone in the blue family, and navy is always a classic. If you aren’t used to having dark colors around, try one as an accent wall or in a guest bath or entry to give yourself a chance to get used to it.
The soft blue in my home is Copen Blue by Sherwin Williams, number SW 0068. It is part of their Interior Preservation Palette. This palette is full of gorgeously rich colors that are from bygone eras. They have a historically neutral undertone since paints in the past were made solely from minerals in the earth.
I’ve used this spa blue quite a bit lately and really like the results. It’s called Watery, number SW6478 by Sherwin Williams. I put this in a master bedroom, and the painter made a mistake and took it into the bathroom as well and in the end both the homeowner and I really liked the way it looked!
If you are brave enough to try a dark blue, I’d suggest Benjamin Moore’s Newburyport Blue number HC-155. This is a beautiful navy that isn’t too light or way too dark like some of them. Pair it with white trim and you will have a winner.
The purple family isn’t used all that often in a home, though it is currently enjoying a bit of a resurgence as it does every few years or so. Because of this, I’ll offer up a light and a dark.
For lavender I prefer Sherwin Williams’ Wisteria, color number SW6822. It is muted yet lovely and not as bright as it appears in the photo.
An accent in the purple family will probably change with the trends, but I think this one is very nice in this particular situation. You’ll see by the name why it may only work with just the right colors. It’s Sherwin Williams’ Impulsive Purple! Look for number SW6832.
Since grays can take on very color in the rainbow, I’ll show you the most neutral of the grays as a baseline.
This Classic French Gray by Sherwin Williams comes from their Preservation Palette and is number SW0077. It is a fairly neutral gray without too strong of an undertone color which makes it very versatile.
Just remember that if you have plum accents as in this teen’s bedroom, select a gray with a slight plum undertone so everything blends. Here you see Sherwin Williams’ Daydream SW6541 and Vesper Violet SW 6542.
Keep in mind that you can always lighten or darken one of the colors I’ve suggested to suit your needs. I’m just recommending the exact color that I’ve used in the past, or have seen on walls in person. If they are too light or dark for you talk to the expert at your local paint store and I’m sure they can make the adjustments.
Here are some additional paint tips I’ve learned through the years.
1. When shopping for paint colors, take as many samples of your home surfaces as possible like swatches of fabric from the upholstery and draperies in the room, flooring samples, cabinet or countertop samples, etc. This will help you to bring home fewer color samples, making final selection a bit easier.
2. I like to cut the color strips apart and place the colors one at a time in a corner where a door trim and baseboard meet to see what the color would look like against my trim and the flooring. Try to block out everything else and “see” the color over the entire wall. In this way you are also viewing the color vertically – the way it will eventually be seen.
3. Narrow your color selection down to two or three and purchase small samples of paint. Paint sample swatches in different areas throughout the room or paint sample boards and lean them in different areas throughout the room and view the colors at all different times of the day. Colors will change as the light changes.
4. Select the color you like best at the time of the day you will be using the room most. If you are only in your master bedroom in the evening or early morning, you want to make sure the color looks great in artificial light at those times of the day.
5. If you are unsure about the depth of a color, select the color one chip lighter than you think because once you have the color on all four walls, it will be magnified.
6. If you are going over another color, prime the walls first, then paint two coats to get a true color.
Last, don’t rush yourself with this project. Taking the time to select just the right color will pay off in the end. As you roll that first roller of paint and fall in love with your color, you’ll know it was all worth it. Then, enjoy the painting process as much as you can. I have found that working with someone makes the time go by faster and the project more enjoyable. Stop for refreshments when you get to corners, and play your favorite music. Painting can be fun!
If you want to do some more research on color schemes in the home, The Color Scheme Bible is a very popular book that looks extremely helpful.
Another helpful tool is the Interior Design Color Wheel. This shows you what colors would make up a monochromatic, complimentary, split complimentary color scheme and more. It is a perfect tool for someone who has trouble visualizing colors together.
Check at the bottom of both of these items. I think there might be a deal if you buy the two together!
Diane G. says
This very helpful, I have been circling around several of the colors mentioned and this reinforces that I’m making good, livable choices! Now I can toss the other 500 colors I’ve been considering!
(Like ‘Mr. Blandings Build His Deream Home’…red, green, blue, yellow, white!) Thanks!
sheila l says
I loved seeing one of my favorite movies quoted! Matching threads (“don’t lose it!”) and matching a pound of fresh butter (“you can’t go wrong!” Thanks for the laugh!!
Thanks for sharing your expertise. This is a great go-to list to keep handy. Happy Mother’s Day, Shari!
Thanks so very much for this advice! I have been struggling with paint issues in my living room / kitchen for a years. I have odd-shaped walls, cathedral ceilings — like a big puzzle. “Napery” seems a great place to start. Hoping to find a compatible terra cotta value for an adjoining kitchen wall. Then there’s the hallway….sigh!
Thanks for the inspiration…I finished my husbands office…compliments daily! Matt and Shari gave me the confidence to go forewards. Its a wow!
Vivian S. Bedoya says
Wonderful advice accompanied by beautiful color choices – thank you for posting!
Francine Ruth says
Hi- I’m struggling with a color for my new kitchen. I love svelte green but it may be too dark as I’ve got a northern faceing kitchen I also like a beige color called khaki something. My cabinets are maple stained medium and beige painted island. Help!!
Shari Hiller says
Francine, not sure if you’ve selected your color or not by now, but are they Sherwin Williams colors?
Brayden Scofield says
The colors I use over and over as a design hobbyist are all by SW as well: Clary Sage, Moody Blue, Cajun Red, Blonde, High Tea, Ecru, Harmonic Tan and Favorite Tan. For friends and associates who prefer gray and beige, I recommend Argos, Nomadic Dessert, Bittersweet Stem.
Shari Hiller says
Brayden, thank you so much for listing your favorite colors. I think there is nothing better than hearing from someone who has tried them. And, when you use them”over and over” as you say, they must be good!
kilim beige was just painted throughout my home. It tends to look pink in some areas. Would changing the light bulbs make a difference?
Shari Hiller says
Hi Bonnie, yes, lighting greatly affects the appearance of colors in your home. Let us know if changing them out worked for you.